Dallas police helicopters are spotting fewer criminals, stolen cars, fires and missing people because the fleet is routinely grounded for repairs, reports the Dallas Morning News. “There is only so much twine, bubble gum and prayers in the world to hold together our current fleet of helicopters,” an internal Police Department review said. “Not only are the existing helicopters ready to fall out of the sky, they can no longer transport personnel and equipment due to their weight limitations.” Dallas’s fleet – the second-oldest among the nation’s 30 largest cities – is making less of an impact on public safety.
The police helicopter unit has a good safety record. There hasn’t been a fatal accident since 1984. There are no federal regulations or established industry standards for the maximum age or flight hours of a helicopter before it needs to be retired. Los Angeles Police Department’s helicopter unit uses a guideline of 10 years or 15,000 hours. Experts say LAPD’s unit is one of the best in the country. With 17 aircraft, Los Angeles has a helicopter in the air almost round the clock and flies about 10 times as much as Dallas does – 17,500 hours a year. Dallas could use homeland security grants for helicopters – Houston did last year – but city officials said it would be unlikely.